We all know that unhealthy lifestyle choices increase the prevalence of chronic disease in our society as a whole as well as within our nation’s workplaces. Employees who are sedentary, practice poor nutrition or use tobacco products are more likely to suffer from dangerous conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Not only do these diseases decrease quality of life and lead to premature disability and death, they also cost employers money.
When employees are unhealthy, productivity suffers. Chronic illness increases absenteeism and reduces performance, a powerful one-two punch to any business bottom line. Fortunately, workplace wellness programs can help employers mitigate losses. Through preventative education and incentives, these programs encourage workers to adopt healthier diets, find time to exercise, and make other important lifestyle changes to improve their health. They also have a direct impact on job satisfaction.
Many Employers Offer Wellness Programs
In a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of U.S. employers reported offering some type of workplace wellness program. Among them, 80 percent included nutrition and weight loss counseling in their offerings. Seventy-seven percent offered smoking cessation assistance. All of these activities had a positive impact on business profitability. In fact, according to a study conducted by Aflac, 61 percent of employers report increased profitability due to their workplace wellness programs.
Wellness Programs Impact Employees
Research has shown that employees who work for companies offering wellness programs are more satisfied with their jobs. In one survey, 67 percent of respondents said an employer-sponsored wellness program shows the company cares about them. Sixty-seven percent also responded that they’re more likely to recommend the workplace to other job seekers as a result.
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services’ study revealed wellness programs regularly result in statistically significant improvements in exercise frequency, weight control and smoking reduction—enhancing employee quality of life both inside and outside the office.
Employers Should Make the Most of Workplace Wellness Programs
Hiring and retaining top-notch employees is a concern for employers in many industries. A competitive benefits package often makes the difference when a candidate is considering multiple offers or a current employee is contemplating a job change. Fortunately, many professionals view a workplace wellness program as a valuable addition to the traditional benefits bundle.
Of course, employers must first ensure these professionals are aware that such a program exists at their organization. In the case of new hires, this can be accomplished by outlining the program in job advertisements as well as discussing it with candidates. According to a study by Virgin Health Miles/Workforce Magazine, 87 percent of employees consider wellness packages when choosing an employer.
Employers should also regularly review their organizations’ wellness offerings with current employees. Seventy percent of workers feel workplace wellness programs have a positive impact on their work culture. An employee who enjoys the culture of his or her workplace is more likely to be satisfied by the job at hand.
Finally, consider including incentives in your workplace wellness program to boost participation. In the Workforce Magazine survey, 78 percent of respondents indicated that rewards are important. Sixty-one percent reported the availability of incentives was the key reason they chose to participate in a wellness program.
If you’d like to learn more about workplace wellness, creating a wellness program, or increasing participation in your current program, consult your benefits advisor.